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THE MOST VISITED MUSEUM IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Each year, the Czech Ministry of Culture provides a statistical overview of the activities of museums and galleries in the Czech Republic with information, for example, on visitor numbers and the amount of cultural and educational events and exhibitions held. We have just received data on the activities of the 478 institutions surveyed in 2006. Attracting 629,383 visitors, the Jewish Museum in Prague retained its position as the most visited museum in the country and came second overall for the number of cultural and educational events held.
In 2007 the Jewish Museum was visited by 673,692 people and its Education and Culture Centre held a total of 526 cultural and educational events. In addition, it restored and conserved 337 artefacts, acquired 1,500 books for its library and added 176 items to its collections.
HELLA GUTH: DISSOLVED FIGURES
The exhibition Hella Guth: Dissolved Figures opened on the 6th of February at the Jewish Museum’s Robert Guttmann Gallery and will be on view until the 27th of April. The first ever solo exhibition in Prague of work by Hella Guth (1908–1992), it is being held for the 100th anniversary of the artist's birth. The curator Arno Pařík responds to a few questions below.
Hella Guth studied in Prague in the 1930s but most of her work was done in exile. How was Guth’s restless life reflected in her work?
Hella Guth was part of the ‘lost generation’ that came of age in the period between the wars. She escaped the Nazis by fleeing from Prague to England in 1939 while most of her family perished in the Holocaust. After developing a distinctive style of cubism in her 1930s work in Prague she went on to create a unique surrealist vision of the world in wartime London. Her most important period, however, was in post-war Paris where she became fairly well known as an abstract painter. Although Guth employed various styles, her work was always original and of high quality.
The current exhibition is named for the 1952 painting Dissolved Figures. What is the importance of this work?
This painting marks a turning point in her post-war work, moving away from linear stylization towards complete abstraction. It still contains
figural elements, but they almost disappear within the geometric structure of the vertical and horizontal lines. I regard the 1945–55 period as the most interesting in terms of Guth’s development, as it clearly shows her transition from surrealism towards radical geometric and expressive abstraction. The title of this painting also aptly captures the transcendental nature of abstract painting that was typical of the period, which is why the exhibition is named for it.
NICHOLAS SAWICKI ON FRIEDRICH FEIGL
On the 10th of January, the Jewish Museum’s Education and Culture Centre hosted a talk by Nicholas Sawicki, an instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Entitled Fashioning a Modern Artistic Identity: Friedrich Feigl and the Prague Eight in the Context of Period Exhibitions and Criticism, his lecture followed on loosely from the Feigl exhibition at the Robert Guttmann Gallery (featured in our last newsletter).
MARGO PARAN: WANDERING AFTER LITTLE HINTS
On the 17th of January, the Education and Culture hosted a preview of an exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints by the Israeli artist and poet Margo Paran, who was born in the Czech town of Kadaň. The show was launched by the artist and Hana Mayerová, an expert on her work. Israeli poetry was discussed by the lecturer Jiřina Šedinová, poems by Margo Paran were recited by students of Charles University’s Institute of Near Eastern and African Studies and music was provided by the Prague Philharmonic Male Quartet with cantor Michal Foršt.
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY
The Jewish Museum in Prague held several events on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp on the 27th of January 1945.
Concert in the Spanish Synagogue
In co-operation with Professor Zuzana Růžičková and with the kind assistance of Zdeňka Klapalová, the Jewish Museum and the Jewish Community in Prague prepared a ceremonial concert at the Spanish Synagogue on the 27th of January. Speeches were made before a packed audience by the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Marián Hošek, the Chairman of the Prague Jewish Community František Bányai and the Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague Leo Pavlát.
The fate of Shoah victims was recalled by biblical texts set to music by J. Teml and O. Kvěch, S. Bodorová’s Terezín Ghetto Requiem (with excerpts from Jewish and Catholic liturgical texts) and poems by R. M. Rilke set to music by V. Kalabis. These works were performed by the baritones Ivan Kusnjer, Roman Janál and Václav Sibera, accompanied by the organist Irena Chřibková, pianist Jan Marcol, the Martinů String Quartet and the Kühn Children’s Choir.
Campaign against racism and xenophobia
In connection with Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Jewish Museum’s Education and Culture Centre (ECC) organized an education campaign against racism and xenophobia from mid-January to mid-February. This followed on from last year’s successful campaign, which was intended mainly for young people who know little or nothing about the anti-Jewish persecution in 1939–45. Posters with texts based on Nazi anti-Jewish laws from the war-time Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia were displayed in illuminated glass frames (‘citylights’) across Prague. The slogans were updated for ironic effect and contained fictitious bans discriminating against certain groups of the population on the basis of their appearance and characteristics.
Meetings with witnesses and survivors at the UN’s Prague Information Centre
Meetings with witnesses and survivors and educational programmes on the topic of the Shoah were held at the UN’s Prague Information Centre between the 28th of January and the 8th of February.
Interactive workshops in Brno
The ECC’s Brno Office in association with the Museum of Roma Culture organized a series of interactive workshops for elementary and secondary school children relating to the Jewish and the Roma Holocaust. Each workshop ended with a meeting with a Jewish or Roman Holocaust survivor, either at the ECC’s Brno Office or the Museum of Roma Culture. On the 28th of January one of the workshops was visited by the Minister for Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities Džamila Stehlíková.
Children had the opportunity to visit the Jewish Museum free of charge between the 1st and 3rd of February. As part of the Icy Prague project, museums and galleries in Prague have a temporary ‘freeze’ on admission charges for children – this year for more than 9,000. It is organized by the associations Nadace dětem 3. tisíciletí (Children of the Third Millennium) and Pionýr (Pioneer) under the auspices of the Czech Ministry of Education.
NEIGHBOURS WHO DISAPPEARED
EXHIBITION IN CANADA
The Neighbours Who Disappeared exhibition began touring Canada on the 29th of February. The ceremonial opening was attended by the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, the Czech Consulate General in Toronto Richard Kopač and representatives of the Canadian Government. In connection with the show, workshops were held by the ECC instructor Miroslava Ludvíková at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Center in Toronto, which were attended by more than 230 local school children.
MEMORIAL CEREMONY IN PINKAS SYNAGOGUE
A memorial ceremony organized by the Terezín Initiative was held in Pinkas Synagogue on the 7th of March in commemoration of the liquidation of the Terezín Family Camp at Auschwitz–Birkenau on the night of 8/9 March 1944.
PRAGUE 1 DAYS
The Jewish Museum contributed to the celebrations of the 660th anniversary of Prague’s New Town, which was founded on the 8th of March 1348 by the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Charles IV. On Sunday the 9th of March the Jewish Museum opened the doors of Klausen Synagogue and the Prague Burial Society’s Ceremonial Hall to the residents of Prague 1.
ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES
Among the Jewish Museum’s important activities is the gathering of information on the development and history of Jewish settlement in the Czech lands. For several years, this information has been available in the Encyclo-paedia of Jewish Communities, Settlements and Memorial Sites in the Czech Republic, which can be accessed on the website www.jewishmuseum.cz/en/adokuzo.htm. This encyclopaedia is being compiled on an ongoing basis due to the increasing amount of data involved. 700 of the more than 1,300 entries that are being put together are now available to order, although these too are continually being supplemented and updated.
The encyclopaedia includes entries on towns and villages that at some time had a Jewish religious community or prayer association, localities with the established presence of a Jewish prayer hall or cemetery, places connected with the lives of important Jewish figures, sites of Nazi concentration, labour and internment camps, and places where the victims of the ‘transports of death’ at the end of World War II are buried. Priority is given to localities whose Jewish history is less well-known or has been hitherto overlooked by researchers.
Of various length (1–70 pages) and mostly comprising numerical data and names, the entries include information on the beginnings of Jewish settlement, its demographic development, social composition, religious community (including a list of rabbis and cantors, etc.), outline history of synagogues and prayer halls, cemeteries, schools and other institutions. Some entries contain a description of a Jewish street or quarter (including a list of houses and their occupants), data on camps and graves from the Shoah period, a list of preserved birth registers and other major archive records, as well as information on available illustrations of the sites and people involved. The source of each piece of information is provided. The alphabetical index of entries can also be used to identify the 2,000 German or earlier Czech names of the communities. The encyclopaedia is being put together by Jiří Fiedler in co-operation with other experts at the Jewish Museum. All entries are in the Czech language only.
SUPPORTERS OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM
Our thanks go to all the institutions that have provided grants for a number of the Jewish Museum’s important projects in 2007.
The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education have provided support mainly for specialist and educational projects relating to social science and librarianship. A set of Torah binders is being catalogued at the Museum with a view to expanding knowledge of cultural diversity in Bohemia and Moravia. Via state-supported publications and seminars for teachers, the Museum’s Education and Culture Centre is promoting multicultural education in society under the motto Jews, History and Culture. Assisted by a state grant, the Museum’s library has become involved in the National Programme of Retrospective Catalogue Conversion in the Czech Republic with the project Scanning of the JMP's Library Catalogues via the RETROCON Method. The Education and Culture Centre has received two grants from Prague City Hall’s pilot programme relating to tourism and heritage protection for the preparation and promotion of workshops and talks on Jewish culture and history, which will be attended by children and young people from across the country. The Foundation for Holocaust Victims has once again provided the Museum with financial assistance to expand the preservation and restoration work that it undertakes every year at the Jewish cemetery in Žižkov.
The EU’s Culture Programme has significantly contributed to the implementation of the subsequent phases of two long-term Holocaust research projects: Transports to the East and Don't Lose Faith in Mankind... The Protectorate Through the Eyes of Jewish Children. The London-based Rothschild Foundation is sup-porting a three-year project for the cataloguing of rare Hebrew books in the Museum’s Library that were printed in Bohemia and Moravia.
We are grateful to all who have supported us.
Members of the United States Helsinki Commission